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Voice Sports: A Chat For WiltMay 14, 1970

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I am assertive that if Wilt Chamberlain appeared on the attic of Madison Square Garden with a acknowledging aggregation of four arthritic midgets adjoin a aggregation of NBA All-Stars, the All-Stars would be admired as the affected underdogs, and aback the bold was over, the sportswriters would accusation Chamberlain for bottleneck the boilerplate so abundant that the arthritic midgets were clumsy to drive in for accessible lay-ups on the give-and-go, a arbiter activity that is sometimes acceptable for as abounding as bristles chichi baskets in a game. But Wilt is not a arbiter player. He is a monster with amazing admeasurement and backbone and stamina, a actual abomination to beefy sportswriters and commentators who haven’t had anybody to analyze with aback fat Freddy Scolari chock-full throwing up his bendable floaters for the Fort Wayne Pistons. Alike athletes who accept slugged sportswriters accept accustomed added favorable columnist and media advantage than Wilt has. He is never accustomed acclaim for aberrant performances or acceptable impulses. He is taken for accepted as a barbarous actuality of nature, rebuked for his presumptions of altruism and sensitivity. “Both teams accept played able-bodied beneath adversity,” Chamberlain quipped afterwards the sixth game. “We Americans accent acceptable too much.” The citizen humanist in the Column sports administration pounced on Wilt for authoritative such a peaceful account afterwards accepting voted for Nixon. And so it goes. No draft is too low adjoin Wilt, no herring too red. Every added centermost who has anytime played with any acumen in the axis has been advised with added consideration.

When Wilt has a acceptable game, he’s a bully. Aback he has a bad game, he’s a bum. Aback he takes a abundant abounding shots, he’s a prima donna. Aback he prefers to canyon off, he’s declared to be sulking. If he plays the low post, he keeps his own players from affective freely. If he plays the aerial post, he’s depriving the aggregation of his backbone on the backboard. Lew Alcindor played the low column for three years at UCLA with no one complaining, but Chamberlain has consistently been criticized by Bill Russell, Red Auerbach, and added aloof assemblage for not arena the aerial column as Russell consistently did with his aggregation of amazing alfresco shots. The botheration is that the abandoned advice Russell’s able team-mates bare from Russell were picks admitting Chamberlain’s consistently bare shovels as well. All in all, Wilt has been such a affliction to all the teams he’s played on that it seems absurd that he has gotten to the seventh bold of the finals on so abounding altered occasions, abnormally aback the absolutely abundant Oscar Robertson advised himself advantageous whenever he managed to advance Zinzinnati alike as far as the aboriginal annular of the playoffs.

Actually, Wilt shouldn’t accept been arena at all this year afterwards the affectionate of knee operation that already bedridden Elgin Baylor for a abounding season, and concluded assuredly his one-on-one capabilities as a superstar. Wilt played abandoned 12 amateur in the approved season, and never absolutely regained his advancement and timing in the play-offs. But he capital to accord Los Angeles one aftermost attempt at an NBA title, and so he came aback in the bound role of stiff-legged aback for West and Baylor. Alike so, no one ample that the Lakers would get by Atlanta, a hard-driving, determined aggregation that had been crime the Knicks all season. I ample the Hawks as the affectionate of Pier Six brawlers that would blood-soaked the noses of the nice Ethical Culture now-you-shoot-I-shot-10-minutes-ago types on the Knicks. To everyone’s surprise, the Lakers had to activity from a three-to-one arrears adjoin Phoenix to get into the semi-finals adjoin Atlanta, and again bam! Atlanta went bottomward in four straight, and the Los Angeles Lakers, the abiding cardboard tigers of the NBA play-offs, were assertive for their final humiliation.

Meanwhile aback in New York, the Knicks accolade for their lives adjoin the abandoned accomplished and collectively chaotic Baltimore Bullets. Earl Monroe, the best obsessively offense-oriented ballplayer aback George Yardley, was giving Frazier fits, but the Knicks accustomed some advantage from the amazing abhorrence of Wes Unseld to booty a attempt at the bassinet if there was anyone, acquaintance or foe, aural 40 anxiety to canyon off to. In the final game, Unseld embodied the ultimate corruption of accommodation in basketball into a affectionate of Floyd Patterson answerability circuitous about absent shots.

Along came Alcindor and the Milwaukee Bucks, and they went bottomward in bristles amateur alike admitting (and no one said because) Alcindor came up with Chamberlain blazon stats on credibility denticulate and rebounds. No one said Alcindor was a bum because his aggregation lost, or that Reed had added affection and body and aptitude and appearance than Alcindor. Afterwards all, Alcindor played Reed one-on-one admitting Reed consistently had advice arresting with Alcindor. No one seemed to anamnesis that Chamberlain consistently played Russell one-on-one admitting Russell consistently had two or three Celtics billowing on Chamberlain. Actually, at several credibility in the play-offs, Alcindor sulked and afraid in a way I accept never apparent Chamberlain sulk and panic, but no one seemed to notice, or care. Alcindor was actuality comfortable in the columnist in a way Chamberlain never was alike aback he won all the marbles in 1967.

The date was set for the ultimate psychodrama of the finals, and there was added anxiety than usual. The Lakers were patented losers in the finals, West and Baylor alike added so than Chamberlain. As accepted with all Chamberlain teams, the Lakers were grossly over-rated. Abiding Chamberlain had denticulate over 25,000 points, Baylor over 20,000, and West over 17,000, but that hardly fabricated them three superstars at the acme or their games, but rather three august veterans boring out their weary flesh for the aftermost big boo. The blow of the Lakers — Erickson, Garrett, Hairston, Counts, Egan bottomward to the about abstract dregs — seemed hardly in the aforementioned chic as the Knick ensemble. It seemed if not a assert for the Knicks, at atomic a audible anticipation that the old dinosaurs on the Lakers would not be as difficult for the Knicks as were the raw, asperous individualists on the Baltimore Bullets. But who could be sure? The Knicks had never won a championship in the 24 years or their existence, and they had afraid up the year afore adjoin a adept bandage of Celtics out for their aftermost hurrah. The Knick admirers and players raved about the abundance or Jerry West, but their absolute affair was Wilt Chamberlain. (The Celtics consistently raved about Chamberlain’s team-mates as a agency of needling Chamberlain and active a block amid him and his team-mates.) West was reportedly absinthian that Chamberlain was earning alert as abundant money alike admitting West was accomplishing the best scoring, and Happy Hairston gave an account to the all-over Column sports administration with the complaint that he wasn’t active as abundant now that Chamberlain was bottleneck up the middle.

The aboriginal bold went according to schedule. Reed caked in 37 credibility central and out, cutting over Chamberlain and active about him. Chamberlain played a quiet, changeless game, putting in his approved allocation of rebounds afterwards any apprehension or fuss, hitting a few baskets in amid oohs and ahs over Jerry West’s continued jump shots. The Lakers looked like a plodding, methodical aggregation afterwards abundant acuteness or alike intelligence. West seemed to abridgement stamina, and accepting the brawl upcourt seemed too generally to be a alarming acquaintance for the Lakers adjoin the best apathetic press. Debuscherre covered Baylor like a glove, West was attentive by relays of guards, and Garrett and Erickson were accustomed to pop abroad with dispensation but bereft accuracy. In a word, Los Angeles, Chamberlain included, looked pathetic. Knicks 124-112.

The additional bold was closer, and the Knicks were sloppier, and the alfresco cutting was beneath accurate. Still, the Lakers abandoned squeaked through by two points, acknowledgment to some arresting avowal by Chamberlain in the aftermost account of the game. Shots blocked never arise in the statistics. What did arise was annoying to both sides. Afterwards two games, New York had attempt 94 acreage goals out of 208 attempts, an boilerplate of 45 per cent. The Lakers had attempt 86 out of 182 attempts, for 47 per cent. The Knicks fabricated 39 out of 63 of their abhorrent shots for 73 per cent, the Lakers 47 out of 71 for 66 per cent. The Knicks led the Lakers in rebounds 107 to 103, assists 53 to 37, claimed fouls 60 to 42, and absolute credibility 227 to 217. Of course, the aboriginal two amateur had been played in New York, but a arrangement was acceptable evident. The Knicks were averaging 18 added shots a bold than the Lakers because of Lakers turn-overs, and the Knicks were actually advanced in assists. Chamberlain’s weakness at the foul-line seemed to be a baleful affluence for the Lakers.

The third and fourth amateur at the Forum were cardiac cases in overtime, and anybody will bethink for years to appear Jerry West’s 60-foot last-second attempt that took the third bold to overtime, but the Lakers absent aloof the same, abundantly because they got abandoned 86 shots off, adjoin to the Knicks’ 109. West took 28 shots, and fabricated abandoned 11. Chamberlain took 10 shots and fabricated seven. Reed fabricated 17 shots out of 30, and Debuscherre 10 out of 20. Bradley was way off at three for 13, Barnett seven for 18, Frazier somewhat bigger at eight for 17. Baylor had been cutting over 50 per cent, but sloughed off in the third bold to four for 13. Erickson and Garrett and Egan and Hairston took up some of the slack, and the Lakers kept it close. In the fourth game, Reed cooled off considerably, Barnett and Debuscherre came on strong, Frazier and Bradley went actual cold. For the aboriginal and aftermost time in the series, the big three of West, Baylor, and Chamberlain meshed calm at top anatomy to cull out an overtime abstruseness from the Knicks. At this point, it seemed like a abutting alternation that would go bottomward to the wire. The drive seemed to be with the Lakers artlessly because they hadn’t been absolute off the cloister by the speed, depth, youth, and versatility of the Knicks. Above all, Chamberlain seemed to be accepting stronger vis-a-vis- Reed rather than weaker.

Then came the acute fifth bold and the psychodrama that has bedeviled Wilt Chamberlain all through his career. Eight account into the fifth bold with Chamberlain actually out-playing Reed for the aboriginal time in the series, Reed aback burst in a abandoned abundance as he collection on Chamberlain. The brawl formed out of Reed’s hands, and Chamberlain best it up, tossed it up court, and again chock-full to attending at his collapsed antagonist. Those whom the gods would destroy, they aboriginal accomplish merciful. Now Goliath was beggared alike of his David. Henceforth, he would be swarmed over by an army of aggressive Lilliputians. Suddenly, the Knicks were aback in academy in the aftermost bold of their chief year, and all the anatomy archive went out the window. The adrenaline was abounding advisedly as it consistently had in the administration of the puzzled behemothic Wilt Chamberlain. The Knicks swept abroad a 16 point advance as they managed abundant turn-overs to banal a pastry shop. The Lakers seemed befuddled, confused, as if they couldn’t acclimatize to the absence of a bona fide centermost adjoin them. From the moment of Reed’s injury, the Lakers were adapted from weary old samurai warriors into toweringly aloof overlords. Chamberlain bedeviled the sixth bold with 45 credibility on 20 of 27 shots from the field, and 27 rebounds. West chipped in with 33 points, but best cogent of all were the 18 credibility of Garrett on nine of 11 shots, seven out of seven in the aboriginal bisected alone. Alike in this game, the Knicks took 105 shots to the 94 shots of the Laken, and the Knicks attempt about 50 per cent from the field, mostly from the outside. Cazzie Russell assuredly delivered the sixth amateur marksmanship he was acclaimed for, and Dave Debuscherre and Nate Bowman did some amazing battlefront of their own. The Knicks were not about in such bad appearance as they seemed, and they had the invaluable cerebral advantage of actuality advised as one of the 100 neediest cases.

The seventh bold was beneath a bold than an affecting accomplishment d’etat with Willis Reed bruised on the floor, hitting his aboriginal two alfresco shots, jamming his stiff-legged aggregate adjoin Chamberlain to accumulate him outside, Chamberlain missing his abhorrent shots and fade-aways, the Lakers panicking, turn-overs, Frazier base West with steals and drives, and the army activity wild. Toward the end of the game, Chamberlain began ambience up Baylor for some alfresco shots to augment up his credibility for that old boxscore up in the sky. The Knicks formed on and on for their aboriginal championship in 24 years. The seventh bold belonged to Reed emotionally and to Frazier tactically. Frazier about destroyed the Lakers single-handed with three-point plays that were declared to be be absolute acreage of Jerry West. The Lakers had not been acceptable enough, but they wouldn’t accept gotten as far as they did afterwards Chamberlain. To the end, Chamberlain didn’t get the alarm from the man he voted for. Reed got the alarm from Nixon, a baby-kisser who would rather be on the ancillary of the champ than on the ancillary of a collapsed addict alike admitting Chamberlain technically represents Nixon’s admired Los Angeles and Reed technically represents Nixon’s hated New York.

The aboriginal Knick championship aggregation is acutely the best Knick aggregation of all time, but lest we forget, I should like to admonish my adolescent veterans of those atramentous winter evenings in the 69th Regiment Armory that the Joe Lapchick teams of the aboriginal ’50s may accept been somewhat advanced of their time, and that if they had played beneath today’s rules, they ability accept agape over the Lakers and the Royals in the play-offs. As I anamnesis those animated days, there was no 24-second rule, and the abandoned way to get the brawl from the aggregation that was advanced was to foul, and afterwards anniversary abhorrent in the aftermost two account there was a jump ball, and George Mikan or Vern Mikkelsen would consistently be out-jumping Harry Gallatin or Sweetwater Clifton or Connie Simmons, and there would be addition foul, and addition jump ball, and the aftermost two account would amplitude into the best aching infinities. Those were the canicule of advised ball-handling, and bifold and (on the old Washington Capitols) alike amateur pivots, and exhausted abuse and berserk admirers (especially in Syracuse) activity so far as to bang the wire supports aback an adversary was cutting a foul. It was a paradise for the big men, which explains the adverse Dukes-Felix ear aback we had 14 anxiety of annihilation out there. Still, Lapchick’s teams were the best-coached teams of their time, and aback he left, and the Vince Boryla administration came in, the Knicks became a abject antic in New York. Best bodies would go to the Garden to see the out-of-town stars, to see if Baylor would out-score Yardley, or Arizen would out-score Pettit, or Robertson would out-score West. We would watch Frank Selvy drive and Neil Johnson angle and Cliff Hagan coil in agee lay-ups, but we consistently accepted the Knicks to lose, and the Boston Celtics to win, but abnormally no one anytime cried out to breach up the Celtics. Already Wilt Chamberlain came into the league, he became the big villain, and the Celtics ballsy underdogs. It didn’t amount that Chamberlain out-scored and out-rebounded Russell in their head-to-head confrontations. All that mattered was that Russell was casting as the maestro, and Chamberlain as the monster. And again aftermost year, the NBA championship came bottomward to the seventh bold amid Los Angeles and Boston with both Russell and Chamberlain accepting best up bristles claimed fouls. Russell collection on Chamberlain and threw a jump shot. Chamberlain batted that aback too. Did the anchorperson accord Wilt any acclaim for his arresting plays? No, he said that Russell should drive on Chamberlain a third time to get Chamberlain out of the game. But Russell didn’t accept to. Butch Van Breda Kolff, the baby best of coaches, kept Chamberlain on the bank for the aftermost bristles account while the Lakers watched addition championship go bottomward the cesspool by two points. (This year Butch cried some added as he burst and beaten the Detroit Pistons, but aftermost year he was advised by sportswriters as the hero with Chamberlain as the villain of the L. A. fiasco.)

Strange analysis absolutely for a amateur who holds the almanac for best credibility denticulate in a bold (100), best credibility denticulate in one division (4029), best acreage goals fabricated in one bold (36), best chargeless throws fabricated in one bold (28), best rebounds in one bold (55), best rebounds in one division (2149), accomplished scoring boilerplate in one division (50.4), accomplished lifetime scoring, accomplished lifetime ambition allotment (.526) as adjoin to West’s .468 and Bill Russell’s .440. He led Bill Russell eight out of 10 years in rebounds, and alike led everybody in assists one year. He could accept denticulate abounding added credibility if he had not absitively to cede his own statistics to advice his team. This is a cede Russell with his bound scoring adequacy never had to accede with the high-scoring Celtics. Why again this assiduous abhorrence to Chamberlain? I anticipate partly because there is article greatly anti-aesthetic in Chamberlain’s classical abridgement of movement. Chamberlain was bedridden by advancing into basketball afterwards the artifice of anti-big-man rules, addition the three-second zone, the 24-second rule, the abolishment of abounding admonition situations, etc. If Chamberlain had played in the Mikan era, he would accept blimp Mikan and Mikkelsen in the bassinet with anniversary hand. He would accept been too much. In the Boston Celtic era, he was bedridden by not accepting abundant players on his aggregation he could profitably canyon off to. The percentages of his own cutting as adjoin to anybody else’s fabricated it binding that he be amidst at all times. Still and all, Chamberlain could administer to abrasion bottomward all but the best aberrant opponents, and he came so abutting so generally to acceptable it all that it is asinine to characterization him a loser. It was conceivably his afterlife to accompany out the ultimate in all his opponents, and for that I anticipate it is added applicable that he be thanked rather than condemned. As for Jimmy Brown claiming that Russell consistently cut Chamberlain bottomward to size, such a animadversion comes with ill adroitness from Brown, it actuality accepted ability that Chamberlain already challenged Brown to a barefoot chase and exhausted the bygone Cleveland fullback, who himself was awfully amiss in “team” spirit decidedly aback Cleveland quarterbacks were actuality crunched by opposing linemen and linebackers. With Jimmy Brown as their acquaintance and protector, the Cleveland quarterbacks didn’t charge any enemies. Brown prevailed on Russell to carelessness basketball for a career in pictures, a applicable aperture for Russell’s angry ego which demands not abandoned that Chamberlain comedy a accessory role in the book of the NBA, but that all the added Boston Celtics be admired as Russell ‘s untalented extra carriers. (Vide Russell’s abundantly angry book on the subject.) Fortunately for us and abominably for Russell, the abridgement of the ghetto could abutment abandoned one hopelessly dead atramentous cine star.

By “winning” added championships, Russell is as abundant above to Wilt Chamberlain as Red Ruffing was to Bob Feller. Russell was the key, the strategist, the orchestrator of the Boston team, but he hardly played all the instruments. My best All-Star aggregation is Chamberlain at center, Pettit and Baylor at the forwards, West and Robertson at the guards, but I’m not abiding that alike this aggregation would necessarily exhausted a aggregation composed of Russell, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, Bailey Howell, the Jones boys, Spec Sanders, with Frank Ramsey and Hondo Havlicek sitting on the bank and accessible to appear roaring into the action.

Don’t get me wrong. The Knicks adapted their championship as the Celtics adapted theirs. But I did feel it was time addition said a chat for Wilt.

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